Archive for December, 2009

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

twas the night before Chistmas and all through the Hospital

not a creature was stirring, not even the new battery power-gerbil…..

Not a stocking was hung from any ceiling with or without care,

and no one expected St. Nicholas to be here.”

Well that is more than enough of a teaser but, yes, I am still in the hospital and will remain so probably till Saturday. As the world prepares to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, I have had some time today and last night to think about my own celebration of this singular moment in Christian humankind’s history. I can look our the window of my hospital room and look down on today equivalents of urban shepherds or “bedouins.” They are the homeless sleeping tonight and almost every night under the interstate outside of St. Vincent de Paul headquarters and across from the hospital here in St. Pete. It seems to me that they are more alike the people to whom the angels appeared in the Gospel tonight than I. I have it so much better – heat, warm water, food, loving care and concern, blankets that protect me from the unusual chill of these last few nights. It seems to me that the Lord is using me this Christmas to reflect on how lucky I really am, not how unfortunate to be in the hospital this Christmas eve and day.

Usually on Christmas eve I celebrate three Vigil Masses for Christmas – somewhere in Citrus or Hernando County for the early Mass for Children, a Mass in Spanish somewhere in Pasco County or Hillsborough around 830pm and Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of St. Jude followed by Christmas day mass in the morning at a local prison, jail or detention center. Tonight, like most of the rest of you, I will simply attend Mass celebrated by someone else. The hospital has a Mass at 730pm tonight, Christmas eve, which I hope to simply attend, in my wheel chair with the others here who are well enough to come down for Mass. I am a lucky man, Christmas, Eucharist, celebrating Christ’s birth in a far more simple and much more appropriate way perhaps than in the past. God is truly good.

So while I might have felt a little sorry for myself when it was decided (largely by myself) to remain through Christmas, I have been graced with new insights about how God today, December 24th and 25th, 2009 interacts with humanity and how lucky we are to be children of the Lord who cared enough on a cold winter’s night to send him Son to earth as a harbinger and bringer of peace. Tonight I find Mary and Joseph in the lives and love of my doctors, my incredibly patient nurses and hospital caregivers, and family and friends who tonight pray for me. I am blessed beyond belief. I have had neither the time nor the energy this year to buys gifts, sign and send cards. Maybe, just maybe in this simplicity I am coming closer and closer to the true spirit of Christmas – sharing hope in the Lord, trust in His ways, preaching his Gospel of compassion and acceptance of suffering and bringing confidence to others. Who knows? Merry Christmas to all and to all a GOOD NIGHT.

Bishop Robert N. Lynch

Christmas 2009



TERRIBLY WEAK BUT “STILL KICKING”

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Exactly a week ago today, I entered the operating arena for the 4th time since July 27th 2009.  The surgery that I underwent a week ago tonight lasted 6 hours, and was challenging due to the surgeon’s need to skillfully avoid scar tissue areas from previous surgeries.  He removed my gallbladder as planned, sewed me back up, and I found myself in the familar territory of my room and with my nursing friends.  I am doing well, but progress is slow in certain areas.  Yesterday and today, they had me up walking, and that is a sure and certain sign that I am on the mend.  I suspect, but have no sure and certain knowledge that I will probably be discharged just before Christmas, but not then in new and minted condition.  Thanks for all of your prayers, and I’ll keep you informed from this site about every three days.

+RNL

A FAREWELL HOMILY PRIOR TO TODAY’S SURGERY

Thursday, December 10th, 2009
Laying Hands on Bishop Etienne as part of the Rite of Ordination.  Photo courtesy of John Christian.

Laying Hands on Bishop Etienne as part of the Rite of Ordination. Photo courtesy of John Christian.

Yesterday, December 9th, I flew out and back to Cheyenne, Wyoming for the ordination of my friend and former colleague, Bishop Paul Etienne, as a bishop. It would never have been possible for me to do that were it not for a generous friend who made his private plane available for the round trip in one day.  I attach here my Homily for the Occasion which I hope you will enjoy as the people of the Church of Wyoming seemed to appreciate it.

Preaching the Homily at Bishop Paul Etienne's Ordination.  Photo courtesy of John Christian.

Preaching the Homily at Bishop Paul Etienne's Ordination. Photo courtesy of John Christian.

No more blogs from me till I am well enough  to resume, probably in about one week. Let us pray for one another and seek God’s help as we prepare to celebrate again the birth of the Messiah.

+RNL

BACK TO THE “OR” HOPEFULLY FOR THE FINAL TIME

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

As regular readers of this space know, since discharge from the hospital on September 1st I have always has the specter of returning one more time to the hospital for what I hope will be the final surgery. Following the emergency surgery in early August for the removal of the infections which threatened my life, I have known and understood that one more major surgical procedure would be required. In that surgery, the ileostomies would be reversed, the colon would be reconnected and there was a possibility that my gall bladder would be removed as stones were discovered on the CAT-SCAN which preceded the emergency surgery. Well, the day for the reversal surgery is here and I will be operated on for the third, and please God and hopefully, the final time on Thursday, December 10th.

My doctors are in agreement that I am now strong enough to endure the reversal procedures and the sooner this is done and recovery completed, the sooner I will be back and doing the things a bishop should do. I have been told that hospitalization this time will most likely be a week to ten days, and recovery four to six weeks, this compared to five weeks in July and August in the hospital (four weeks in CPICU) and three months and then days in recovery at home.

My office will keep the diocese informed of my progress on this site and the diocesan web site (http://www.dosp.org) . While I enjoy the same rights of privacy as everyone else, the position of leadership which I hold compels me to be straight-forward and honest in letting the priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the diocese know what is going on.

May I ask several special favors: please no flowers, cards, expressions of good cheer. I know you will be praying for me and that is more than enough. Also, the hospital was very grateful last time for some severe restrictions on visitors. They can be disruptive of recovery and, in my case, challenge the staff of the hospital to do their work not just for me but for the other patients. I would much rather be out and among you doing what I should be doing and that will come sooner as recovery progresses. As soon as I can I will resume my commitment to this blog and am certain that we will be communicating again well before Christmas.

My prayer for six months has been and remains the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer:” fiat voluntas tua “or “Not my will, Lord, but yours be done.”

I hope to see many of you soon and be assured of my prayers and best wishes for a most blessed Christmas.

+RNL

FRIENDS GOES PHOTO – THANKSGIVING DINNER AT PINELLAS HOPE

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

I was able to stop by Pinellas Hope on Thanksgiving Day at 1 o’clock when Thanksgiving Dinner with all the trimmings was served to about 230 residents of the homeless shelter. The dinner (food) was a gift of two individuals who wish to remain anonymous but it was served at tables duly decorated for the day by about 150 volunteers who just showed up to serve the meal. Many were families with small children, all of whom carried plates of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and rolls to the residents at tables in the dining tent. Here are some of the pictures which I took but please be aware that we do not take pictures of the residents.

Volunteers preparing to serve Thanksgiving meal to residents of Pinellas Hope

Volunteers preparing to serve Thanksgiving meal to residents of Pinellas Hope

Volunteer father and son delivering full plates of turkey and trimming from the buffet line to the dining tent

Volunteer father and son delivering full plates of turkey and trimming from the buffet line to the dining tent

Sheila Lopez, "housemothet/Godmother/denmother" of Pinellas Hope with some of the 125 volunteers who showed up to help serve Thanksgiving dinner to 230 residents

Sheila Lopez, "housemothet/Godmother/denmother" of Pinellas Hope with some of the 125 volunteers who showed up to help serve Thanksgiving dinner to 230 residents

Dining tent has been decorated for "festive" Thanksgiving dinner by Volunteers who arrived early in the morning to "dress up" the area

Dining tent has been decorated for "festive" Thanksgiving dinner by Volunteers who arrived early in the morning to "dress up" the area

Dinner in the "diner"

Dinner in the "diner"

From individual tents to single occupancy "Casitas" made possible by gifts from generous benefactors, Each casita costs $1000 to build and place

From individual tents to single occupancy "Casitas" made possible by gifts from generous benefactors, Each casita costs $1000 to build and place

Pinellas Hope II new buildings now under construction - transitional low cost housing includes a kitchenette, bath with shower and living/sleeping area. The old and the new

Pinellas Hope II new buildings now under construction - transitional low cost housing includes a kitchenette, bath with shower and living/sleeping area. The old and the new

A PERSONAL ANNIVERSARY OF SORTS

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Fourteen years ago today [December 5th] I was introduced to the diocese as its future bishop. I drove over from Miami where I was a pastor the day before the public announcement and stopped along the way in Venice where the Florida bishops were meeting at the time. They already had been informed by the papal nuncio of the announcement so they welcomed me as a future brother in the episcopal ministry of the state. Archbishop Favalora was in Miami, Bishop Symons was in Palm Beach, Bishop Dorsey was in Orlando, Bishop Nevins was in Venice, Bishop Snyder was in St. Augustine and Bishop Mort Smith was in Pensacola-Tallahassee. I mention their names because only the Archbishop and I remain among the active bishops fourteen years later. I was accompanied on the trip by one of my best priest friends from Miami, Monsignor Jude O’Doherty. After the brief stop in Venice and the warning, “you have no idea what you are getting yourself into” we entered the car and continued north to St. Petersburg. It was all very hush, hush and I had to sneak in under the cloak of darkness. Having been given the wrong directions of where to exit I-275 for Clearwater and the residence of Bishop Larkin, my hiding place for the night, I made my first accidental trip to Tampa before making a U-Turn back to the Pinellas side of the Howard Franklin. One wag said to me, “lost from the first moment in the diocese.”

We met Bishop Larkin, Monsignor Muldoon, and Monsignor Dee, I think, and went to dinner at Heilman’s. No member of the media found me that night and the press conference the next morning was my official introduction through the media to the people of the diocese and area. Mike Wilson of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES the previous Sunday had been tipped off that an announcement was coming on Tuesday and had written an article listing his three top choices for the appointment and I was one of those he chose.

It was all rather scary, that first day, meeting so many people from the staff, visiting my Cathedral for the first time and what was to be my residence, and talking about the ordination/installation Mass. I was the first bishop of the four in the history of the diocese to be ordained here as both Archbishop Favalora and Bishop McLaughlin came as bishops already and Bishop Larkin was ordained in Rome by his graduate school classmate, Pope John Paul II.

Exhausted, Monsignor O’Doherty and I drove back to Miami in the late afternoon with memories swirling and anxiety rising (at least speaking for myself).

You welcomed me that day and have ever since. You patiently tolerated my weaknesses and have always encouraged me in my ministry. I will let January 26th, 2010  my fourteenth anniversary, pass unnoticed even though that is the official date of my ordination and installation and instead will pray for all of you today. My final surgery may occur as early as next week and I will let you know in this space when I know all the details. In the meantime, thanks for the memories thus far and prayers for all of us in the future.

+RNL

100TH PRIEST ORDAINED FOR DIOCESE YESTERDAY

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Yesterday, our Church ordained its 100th priest since its establishment in 1968. John Bailey Lipscomb was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop John C. Favalora, Archbishop of Miami, at the Chapel of St. James, Bethany Center in Lutz. Father John is the first priest to enter priestly service in our diocese under what is called the “Pastoral Provision” by which married Anglican/Episcopalian priests can become priests of the Roman Rite.  Father John and his wife Marci  made their profession of faith almost two years ago at Nativity parish in Brandon and he has been assigned to be the priest-in-residence and Spiritual Director at the Bethany Center. In this capacity he will be celebrating the sacraments for groups who may be unable to have the presence of a priest, assisting in hearing the confessions of young people on retreat and guiding retreatants during their stay at Bethany. He spent his diaconate months at St. Paul parish in Tampa and will celebrate his First Mass this coming Sunday at St. Paul and then another the following Sunday at Nativity, Brandon.

Since I was uncertain of my ability to preside at the ordination ceremony, I invited Archbishop Favalora to return to ordain Father Lipscomb and he graciously accepted. I was able to preach and if you wish, you can read my homily for the occasion.

100 priests in forty-eight years ordained for this diocese is a milestone of sorts but also an indicator of how desperate we are for vocations from the diocese. With over thirty in the seminary at this time, things look brighter but I don’t count my chickens until my hands rest on their heads at their ordination. What I do count as a blessing is the renewed generosity of young men to try the seminary against the current of popular opinion about the celibate and chaste life and I also pray that the sisters may also experience a growth in vocations.

Congratulations, Father John Lipscomb and we welcome you to priestly ministry in the Church of St. Petersburg.

+RNL

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Pictures by Ray Basett, Maddock Photographers
for the Diocese of Saint Petersburg